Eating Your Words: Yummy Gelatin

Sunday, March 1, 2009 52 comments

A jolly, jelly word

I've spent hours trying to come up with something for the Eating Your Words Challenge (co-hosted by yours truly) that didn't involve pancake batter or toast, although I was stuck on a breakfast theme. I thought it was terribly clever when I composed Mr. Noodle's breakfast of bacon and eggs into a visual pun but the end result managed to be both greasy and cheesy, neither of which was the desired outcome. 

"Eggs Over Easy" [ba-dum-chhh!]

Thankfully, inspiration struck before I resorted in desperation to sculpting a giant block of butter. Just when I thought my brain would turn to jelly, it came to me: jelly! As a child, I loved the happy Jell-O jingle that invited us to "watch it wiggle, see it jiggle" and I was enthralled by pictures of that wobbly, incandescent mass crowned with a giant blob of whipped cream topping. 
(Photo by Carol Browne)
But most of all, I remember Stained Glass Jell-O (a.k.a. Broken Glass Jell-O), by which colorful, transparent cubes of varying flavors were 'embedded' in a background of plain gelatin made opaque by the substitution of cream or milk for water. And suddenly, I had my idea: I'd make a jolly, jelly message! 

The most difficult part, I knew, would be forming the gelatinous letters. I considered buying alphabet cookie cutters or molds but was constrained by budget ($15 for miniature tin letters?!) so I decided to cut them out by hand. Unfortunately, the very properties that give Jell-O its wiggly-jiggliness also make it quite delicate to handle. Thank goodness for seaweed!

Most American-brand jelly mixes are made with gelatin, a protein-based thickening agent derived from animal connective tissues. In Asia, the preferred thickening agent is agar-agar (also known as kanten or Japanese gelatin), a dried seaweed that is sold in strips or as a powder in most Asian groceries. Unlike gelatin, which must be chilled to set, agar-agar's efficacy is such that it quickly sets at room temperature, resulting in a much firmer jelly (source: The New Food Lover's Companion - pp. 5, 290). It was the perfect medium to form my letters.

In the interest of convenience, I opted for a mango-flavored pudding mix containing agar-agar and for the transparent background, I chose the classic lime Jell-O (the gelatin's slow setting ensured that the mold didn't form before I could arrange my message). Despite the much sturdier texture of the mango jelly, it was still a bit tricky to cut out letters so my grand plan of a complete sentence was dumbed down to a single word that could be formed with straight lines: YUMMY.

So there you have it: my entry to the Eating Your Words Challenge.

I invite you to join me and Savor the Thyme in letting your food do the talking. The challenge ends at midnight, March 6th so there's still plenty of time to play with veggies, fruits, noodles or whatever edible can be rendered legible! 

To participate:

1. 'Write or spell' using food or drink and create a blog post about it until midnight on Friday, March 6th. Any previous blog posts you already have where you've created a 'written'-inspired dish or drink will be accepted.

2. Blog about your creation, including photos, and add a link back to Savor the Thyme ( and Tangled Noodle (

3. Send an e-mail titled 'Eating Your Words' to with the following information:
  • Your name
  • The name of your blog
  • The name of your dish or drink
  • Your food blog name and the link to your entry, including pictures, by midnight March 6, 2009
You can still participate even if you don't have a blog at all. Simply e-mail the above information minus the blog details and we'll include it in the round up.

4. Please keep it clean! Appropriate humor is always welcome.


  • Bob said...

    Nice. I haven't had jello in ages. :)

    I've been trying to think of something to enter for this, but have been drawing a total blank. I'll keep working on it though!

  • Anonymous said...

    Very creative - I can also picture Mr. Noodle's face when he got his bacon and eggs. =)

    I love the gelatin - very colorful and festive option.

  • Maria Verivaki said...

    gelatin is one thing that definitely doesn't feature in greek cooking. i have been thinking about this event, but tire at the thought of making say a greek filo pastry pie (keeps it shape well), then cutting it into letters. my husband will scold me for the waste, as he is one of those people who wants to eat his pie as the perfect piece (not the off-cut!)

  • Anonymous said...

    Yummy! :) I've been tossing this whole eat your words thing around in my head. So far I've had one idea which seems a bit of a cheat - does a single letter count? Hmmm...

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Heather - Thank you! I hope you're able to participate. This brought back memories of how proud I was to be able to 'cook' something as a kid!

    Bob - I've been there! Hopefully, something will spark an idea.

    Sara - Thanks! Others have come up with really creative entries - I was just really persistent w/the darned jelly letters.

    5 Star - I wish the bacon turned out a little better. In hindsight, I might have been better of with turkey bacon . . .

    Girlichef - That would be great if we could revive it every so often! Your entry is so awesome - I really loved the play on words.

    Oyster - Mr. Noodle was mildly annoyed that he had to wait for his breakfast while I fussed and fiddle with it! 8-)

    Maria - I totally understand. It was a big effort making the single piece of toast that I used to announce the challenge, but much less than making filo pastry and cutting it out!

    Spud - We're game for all manner of creativity. My husband loves making cocktails with citrus fruits so I briefly toyed with the idea of carving out letters on the little lime and lemon wedges that hang on the rim of the glass. But then I started sipping and the hand-eye coordination went to heck . . .

    Chitra - I'm going to whip up some cream and chow down on my word (or at least parts of it)!

    Beancounter - If you're able to, that would be great but don't worry. Perhaps we'll do it again, as girlichef suggested. As for the taste, I finished and photographed it last night so no time to try it out. It's dessert after dinner tonight! If I had the time, I was hoping to make gulaman but maybe next time . .

    Sophie - Thank you! I actually haven't had Jell-O (the boxed brand) in a long time but recently, I made a dessert using agar-agar and I realized that I missed that texture!

    Jennifer - I'm happy it turned out but not w/o sacrificing a lot of gelatin (and before that, a lot of bacon and pancakes)! 8-)

  • Lori said...

    This is great. You are so creative. Oh, no! Only one more week to enter. I'm finally back in my kitchen in Brazil so hopefully I can figure out something this week. I'm drawing a blank right now. I haven't had many creative juices flowing lately. :)

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Phyllis - In the Philippines, it's called 'gulaman' and it's used in a variety of desserts. As a child, I much preferred the softer texture of 'American' Jell-O but as an adult, I've switched allegiance back to agar/gulaman. It seems more substantive now! BTW, I did find pei dan - haven't tried it yet but I'll let you know what my first reaction is. 8-)

    Elra - Thanks! I've got dibs on "UM" for dessert tonight!

    Lori - Welcome back to your Brazilian kitchen! I enjoyed the post about your meal in Curitiba, especially the mandioquinha. I'd be happy just seeing a post of fruits that are currently in season in Brazil!

    Reeni - Yay! Keep at it: you've got amazing ideas throughout your post!

    Duo - I'm glad you liked the pun! I had visions of perfectly cooked and formed bacon and elliptical eggs so when the strips started curling and the eggs just plopped wherever, I was a little let down. But at least I had gelatin - and as they say, "There's always room for Jell-O"!

  • Chef E said...

    Oh, you have out done my silly buckwheat drawings last week...*head down*, not I am not sure I want to go up against you...yours is so clever and very very creative...wish I could eat that darn bacon and eggs right now!

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Lisa - Thank you! I'm a bit surprised that it's received a nice reaction. Maybe I cracked down on the eggs to hard . . . [groan - more bad puns!]

    Chef E -They're not silly: I loved the message (which I won't reveal here so that you can still post it)!

  • Kiezie said...

    That's very cute and creative! I do love the eggs over easy!! :) And I fully understand cutting the letters by hand! When you see mine you'll understand why I am not happy with the letter S! LOL!!

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Jescel - Thank you! It did take a bit of time (and some cursing) but I'm happy with the end result.

    ChefBliss - Thanks! I can't wait to see your entry. And what's with the letter 'S'? I had problems with it on my 'thanks' pancake, too!

  • Sapuche said...

    I love the fact that in your “Eggs Over Easy” photo the eggs look like eyes and the bacon letters curl up on the sides like a smile. Am I seeing things? (I tend to see things in food. Nothing religious, mind you…) And I never had the pleasure of eating Stained Glass Jello as a kid (or as an adult). It looks fun! I only wish I were so creative in the kitchen. Good luck choosing the best entrants!

  • Anonymous said...

    You've reminded me of how much I used to love the layered rainbow jello and it was always so cool when some of the layers were opaque. My grandmother used to shred carrots and chop up canned pineapple in orange jello - it sounds kind of gross but was refreshing and yummy! on a hot summer day. Is the "S" problem from the camera? Maybe you have to make a backwards "S" for it to look right on the picture?

  • Anonymous said...

    Um, I guess that's not the problem because the "K" was right. Anyway - it all looks good enough to eat whether the letters are backwards or not!

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Sapuche - Now that you mention it, I see the eyes and smile, too! Hmmm . . . you see things in food and we're asking people to let it do the talking - kitchen fume hallucinations? 8-) Thanks and please stop by again to see the entries!

    Gastroanthropologist - I don't think it's gross at all (although I might have as a veggie-averse kid); my husband says he recalls green beans in their Jell-O! We ate my entry last night and it was such a trip down memory lane. Still, I now prefer the firmer jelly puddings served at Asian restaurants that are made with coconut milk.

    As for the backward 'S' on my 'thanks'-cake: my first batch was written the correct way but when I flipped it over, I realized my mistake. So the second batch was written backwards, except for the 'S'! Grrrr . . .

    Hornsfan - Thank you and I hope you do! We'd love to see your entry!

    BTW - I meant to e-mail you b/c I had trouble reading your recent post. A message popped up that Feedburner wasn't working properly. I'll check again but I don't know if anyone has mentioned it yet.

  • Anonymous said...

    So lovely! And you are so creative. I love that Easy below eggs, I love everything related to eggs and this one seems so colorful and appetizing. I just want to have a bite from one of the lines of that "E".

    By the way, I have an award for you on my blog, go check it out.

  • Kiezie said...

    Me again: I have an award for you!!

    And I will have my "eat your words" posted tomorrow, but actually I think it will just be "eat your letters"!! :)

  • Spryte said...

    Stuff floating in jello has always kinda creeped me out... well... unless it's a tequila worm in a jello shot!!

    But bacon & eggs is always yummy!

  • Anonymous said...

    My goodness--doesn't that look....wait for it....yummy! :D When you said you had to reduce your sentence down to a single word made with straight lines, it reminded me of the part in Charlotte's Web, where the animals are trying to describe Wilbur and choose a phrase that captures his Essence without going on at great length. Even though Templeton came back with the word "crunchy" (I think). Fortunatelly, they didn't go with that. I think they settled on Some Pig and, later, Humble.

    When you're writing with spider web or food, it pays to be pithy!

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Zerrin - Thank you so very much for the award and for your kind comments here! I'm a little behind in reading your most recent posts but I see some very interesting new recipes - I'll check them out soon!

    ChefBliss - Thanks and many more thanks for sharing your award! And I can't wait to see your 'letters' - I was close to carving out initials in the limes Mr. Noodle was using for cocktails as my entry until the jelly idea came to me!

    Teanna - Thank you! I'm still thinking about your TWD entry of armagnac and prune chocolate cake - it looked so delicious!

    Suzanne - Thanks for stopping by! I shouldn't have been so hard on these eggs - they seem to be a hit. 8-)

    Natashya - I didn't realize how much I'd missed it until I completely scarfed down this project last night for dessert. Now, I'm probably going to have to stock up on Jell-O!

    Spryte - I totally appreciate your candor! But would you really choose a worm over mango gelatin? If it's the sauce that appeals, then come back later - I've made even better use of the leftover mango jelly, which I'll share soon!

    OPC - So happy to have you back! I love "Charlotte's Web" (although I'm totally old-school: it's Paul Lynde's "Templeton" or nothing!); maybe it was a subliminal influence!

    Eric - 8-D!!!!

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    James - Thank you for stopping in! I just visited your site and don't know where to start (or stop!) - you've been at this blogging game for quite some time. I look forward to the continuation of "Kitchen Tips" although I need to make my way back through the first 40+!

    Cris - No pressure! If you come up with something, that would be great - otherwise, please be sure to check back on Monday to see all the entries!

  • The Diva on a Diet said...

    Wow, I'm impressed! You are one enterprising Noodle indeed. Love it!

    I'll be sending you my entry tomorrow ... just under the wire. The post will appear on my blog tomorrow morning and I'll send the email thereafter. Phew!

    Lastly, I'm grateful for The Duo Dishes comment ... I was having a brain-dead moment and didn't get the pun until I read their comment. Duh! LOL

  • Michele said...

    Those are so cute! I got a good giggle out of the Eggs over Easy
    And The New Food Lover's Companion is a great book! I used to just browse through it for fun =)

  • Anonymous said...

    Well done, well done! And, you appear to have the hands of a surgeon! - look at those straight edges on all the letters!

    Now, back to the mango.. mmmm, mango! Nice choice with the jello, certainly brings back memories and, most importantly, gives another idea for an easy to make but yet still yumm snack!

    Whether cooking, baking, grilling or just straight drinking, rock on Tangled Noodle, rock on!

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Diva - I just saw your entry: delicious Diva indeed! Thanks so much for participating - I can't wait for you to see your entry alongside your fellow creative and fun foodies!

    Michele - Thanks! As for the book, I used to go through it at the bookstore all the time until my exasperated husband told me I could justify buying it because it's educational! 8-)

    Scotty - Thank you, although most people would be thrilled that I decided to be a blogger than a surgeon!

  • Lory said...

    Like Sapuche, I saw the smiley face of the eggs and bacon right away! These are so cute!
    I miss gulaman! Jell-O just does not do anything for me.

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Manang - I now love the firmness of gulaman! I bought some agar-agar to try to make it; I already have tapioca pearls so perhaps I can make gulaman and sago. Also, I will be making your easy taho recipe, if not today then definitely tomorrow! Thanks for that and for you comment here.


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